Sun | Mar 26, 2017

Conflict Women - Beauty From the Hands of Survivors

Published:Sunday | March 12, 2017 | 3:00 AMKimberly Goodall
This gold-plated bracelet with raw turquoise will add spunk to your outfit.
Silver-plated bridal tiara with freshwater pearls and cat's eye from the Hope Bridal Collection.
The heart and creative brains behind Conflict Women, Asiya Muhammed.
Hope Collection's gold plated choker necklace with tiger's eye.
Gold plated multi strand necklace and bracelet set from the Hope Collection.
This uniquely stylish piece is from Conflict Women's Hope Collection
Fariel Ali Khan looks exquisite in this butterfly project piece that accentuates her melanin beauty.
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Looking from the outside, you would think that when a woman finally escapes an abusive relationship, the worst is over. But surprisingly, a survivor's journey to self-recovery is tougher and more painful than you think.

In hopes of empowering survivors' of domestic and sexual violence to regain control of their lives, Asiya Mohammed has created a platform of transparency and expression through jewellery design.

Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Mohammed always dreamt of making a positive difference in the lives of the less fortunate. A child of domestic violence and experiencing the financial burdens of a single-parent home, Mohammed was determined to, one day, help survivors gain financial independence to break free from the cycle of abuse.

In 2010, as a Global Law and Development Fellow with DPK Consulting/USAID, Mohammed was asked to conduct a workshop for rape survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was during that workshop that she felt the beautiful spirit of transformation in the room. Women who had been through the worst crimes had transformed their inner conflicts and made the decision to walk in their own power, with love and happiness. It was in that moment that she knew she had found her life's calling.

After four years of hard work and determination, Mohammed was ready to bring her passion to life. With her love for jewellery, and dreams of empowering women, she created Conflict Women- a social brand based in Trinidad and Tobago that offers free training to abuse survivors in jewellery making, business development, and conflict transformation. Participants receive tool kits, design briefs, and begin receiving a monthly income once they begin producing jewellery. The products are retailed in Stechers Fine Gift Stores, Hotel Normandie and Akimbo, as well as through their online platform.

Mohammed believes that making jewellery is therapeutic and finds that survivors enjoy using art to represent the ups and downs of their lives, and the inherent challenges faced by the soul.

"The twists and turns all come together to form a beautiful, unique piece of art that can be worn in the journey of life," she told Outlook.

The Butterfly Project that was used to kick start Conflict Women, sells jewellery and art, all designed and hand-crafted by survivors of domestic and sexual violence. According to Muhammed, the "Butterfly Project" was so named based on the three stages of a butterfly as it mimics the stages of a survivor - caterpillar (living in abusive relationships), chrysalis (shelters/safe houses) and butterfly (outside of abusive relationship, testing wings). Each design is sold with the survivor's anonymous story, and a portion of the proceeds is used to provide her with financial stability.

Survivor and beneficiary of Conflict Women, Bethel Morris* shared that "Conflict Women has provided tremendous support for me. It's means everything for me to be a part of the Butterfly Project, and to receive support over the years. It has helped me to go on day by day, and has given me a purpose in life - somewhere to go, something to do, and people to encourage me. The support has not only been emotional, but also financial, and I have learnt to be creative. When people buy my jewellery, I feel happy as they get joy in wearing it."

Conflict Women aspires to export the business regionally and internationally to empower more survivors with a monthly income and free training. They also welcome corporate sponsors who would like to support their initiative, as with the blood and tears of survivors and the support of Conflict Women, more women will be offered financial freedom and empowerment.

The company continues to partner with several government and non-government agencies working in the area of violence against women and invite nominations several times per year.

Additionally, individuals can reach out to Conflict Women at info@conflictwomen.com or via their Facebook page, to refer a survivor who can benefit from the Butterfly Project.

Here are a few of survivors' pieces that can be purchased at www.conflictwomen.com.

*name changed

kimberly.goodall@gleanerjm.com